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Message from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

Leslie P. Hume, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Stanford University

Leslie P. Hume

“The spirit of Stanford … was to make a new era in the training of men and women. It was to bring the education of tomorrow straight to the youth of today.”

Prescient words from David Starr Jordan, Stanford’s first president — and more than a century later each time I read them, they are a powerful reminder of the importance of the work of the university.

As President Hennessy notes in his essay, 2011 was a remarkable year for Stanford, one that advanced its mission in ways that Jordan so powerfully articulated.

This year, the trustees were particularly attuned to the state of higher education in the United States, how that is reflected in Stanford and how the university can best utilize its unique strengths.

Stanford has been a liberal arts institution since its founding, and in today’s more interconnected and interdependent world, we believe a strong foundation in the arts and humanities will prove more essential than ever.

We are fortunate to have alumni and friends who share our convictions. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gift of $400 million, $300 million of which was allocated for the School of Humanities and Sciences. Over the past decade, the Hewlett gift has had a profound impact, inspiring others to join in strengthening the core of our great university. It supported new professorships, endowed undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships and strengthened interdisciplinary majors. It made a fundamental difference in the life of the university in its second century — both in this new era of students and faculty and in its promise to future generations.

Stanford is also known for innovation, and this year we have seen notable research advances. Our faculty are spearheading important policy initiatives and imagining new applications in technology that promise to be of broad benefit. From micro-optics that monitor brain cells, to new battery technologies, to a technique that reconnects severed blood vessels without sutures, to working with the Chinese government on reforestation and conservation projects, to leading efforts to develop criteria for common standards in K-12 science education, Stanford scholars and researchers campus-wide are tackling some of the thorniest problems and issues of our day.

Such advances, discoveries and new policies — the result of path-breaking education and research — can have a direct impact on the quality of people’s lives, and this year’s successful conclusion of The Stanford Challenge ensured that the university has the resources it needs to continue to innovate. As a result of the campaign, today’s students and faculty engage in more multidisciplinary research than ever before, collaborating on a host of ventures that will benefit society.

None of these efforts could have been envisioned 120 years ago, when 500 students gathered in the Inner Quad for the opening ceremony of Stanford University. As expected, both Senator Stanford and President David Starr Jordan addressed the students, but they did not hear from Jane Stanford. She had composed an address but at the last minute could not bring herself to give it.

Fortunately for us, her words live on the page, and her fervor and ambition for Stanford’s students are palpable:

“Our hearts have been more deeply interested in this work than you can conceive. … I desire to impress upon the minds of each one … that you will resolve to go forth from these classrooms determined in the future to be leaders with high aims and pure standards; and live such lives that it will be said of you that you are true to the best you know.”

Today, the university remains true to the aims and ambitions of its founders and first president: A Stanford education in the 21st century will enable our students to lead and serve and live their lives “true to the best” they know — to provide a better tomorrow for future generations.

 

Leslie P. Hume
Chair,
Stanford University Board of Trustees